Delta CEO: Airlines Should All Fly Fair

Delta Air Lines’ CEO is hopeful the Trump administration will assist major U.S. airlines in their dispute with Gulf carriers over alleged government subsidies and unfair access to U.S. air routes.

U.S. airlines maintain that Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — which all fly out of Boston — have received billions in government subsidies from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in violation of the U.S. Open Skies agreement governing airlines’ rights to offer international passenger and cargo services.

“We’re very hopeful,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said at a Boston College Chief Executives Club lunch in Boston yesterday.

“We are up against governments that are flying against us, rather than airlines,” he said.

The Open Skies agreements are based on airlines playing by the same rules, Bastian said.

“They’re subsidized, we’re not,” he said, noting he’d like Gulf carriers to be more transparent and held accountable, and the U.S. to suspend their growth until new agreements are reached. Bastian’s optimism about the Trump administration follows a Feb. 9 White House meeting between Trump and U.S. airline executives.

“His opening comments … were on that topic, and he acknowledged the challenges that these foreign governments are (posing) and the lack of a level playing field,” Bastian said. “He ran on a platform of protecting American jobs and enforcing U.S. trade agreements. We think we’re one of the industries that’s been most impacted.”

In January, Delta reported its highest annual profit ever: $6.1 billion in adjusted pretax income that allowed for $1.1 billion in employee profit-sharing. But Bastian said the Open Skies issue also speaks to the future economic climate for U.S. airlines.

European carriers Lufthansa, Air France and KLM, and Asian carriers Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, are struggling because the Gulf airlines have taken their traffic pools, Bastian said.

“Qantas is no longer the national airline of Australia, it’s Emirates,” he said. “Do we want that to be this country in 10 years from now?”

Bastian also spoke about Trump’s new travel ban that barring another legal setback, will take effect Thursday and temporarily prohibit refugees and others from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

“We appreciate that this most recent executive order came out to give us some lead time in terms of how to implement it,” Bastian said.

Originally Published on Aviation Pros.